Following on the heels of Mayor Mike McGinn and city council member Bruce Harrell, who both went up with cable TV ads last week (a $60,000 buy and a $24,000 buy respectively), state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill), made a $26,000 cable TV ad buy that will run for a week starting tomorrow. (Meanwhile, former city council member Peter Steinbrueck tells PubliCola he won't be doing any TV ad buys because he doesn't have the money and will be "focusing on direct voter contact" instead.)

Murray's ad, which splices archival photos of Murray with live-action shots and scenes of Murray speaking directly to the camera, avoids taking any hard punches at incumbent McGinn, focusing instead on Murray's family, his work to pass gay marriage, and his 18 years in the state legislature. (There's also a weird shout-out to President Kennedy, who shows up in the ad's very first frame—a reference to Murray's own inspiration, that frankly, isn't timely or powerful to voters.)

The only oblique mention of McGinn is Murray's statement (full text below) that "we can do better." I get that Murray's hurdle is name ID, and he needed to introduce himself rather than attack the mayor, but the ad's emphasis on gay rights is too narrow—there's also an image of Murray with U.S Rep. Barney Frank.

For a candidate who needs to distinguish himself in a crowded field that includes better-known names like Peter Steinbrueck, the ad establishes some pretty banal stuff: 1) Murray is a Kennedy Democrat; 2) Murray "spent 18 years serving Seattle in the state legislature); and 3) (the only standout fact) that, again, he's a gay rights champion.

Another thing Murray touts is his success at passing transportation funding. He should have focused on that more. Another mistake, I think, is the way he handles his impressive endorsements, including former King County executive Ron Sims and current city attorney Pete Holmes. Those scroll across the screen at the end (and in the background), after most people will have stopped watching. Those endorsements give Murray what he lacks most with voters who are unfamiliar with him: serious cred. 

The other problem: Murray isn't running for the legislature, but most of the accomplishments he mentions relate to state issues (even those, like gay marriage, with strong support in liberal Seattle). Another issue he brings up, education, has actually been a source of attacks from his opponents, who say the legislature (with Murray as senate minority leader) failed to fully fund K-12 education as required by the supreme court this year. And even his big transportation success is tricky to boast about because what's on voters minds right now is the opposite: the legislature just failed to pass a transportation package. 

Bottom line: Murray needs to become known outside his own 43rd legislative district (Capitol Hill, First Hill, Fremont, Wallingford, the University District, Greenlake, Eastlake, Madison Park, Roosevelt and Ravenna) to have a shot citywide. Stressing gay marriage as much as he does without raising more city-specific issues doesn't broaden his appeal to voters concerned with the city. 
Here's the full text of Murray's voiceover: 

My parents were inspired by President Kennedy. Our family believed that we could make a difference. When I realized I was gay, I thought I would never have that chance. But Seattle is a special place. I've represented our city in the state legislature for 18 years. I've helped fund transit, protect our environment, improve education. And I wrote our marriage equality law. Seattle can do better. Join me and we will live up to our progressive values, together.

In contrast to Murray's safe (Kennedy?!?) soft-focus ad, McGinn's focuses on education—specifically, his work on the families and education levy and a school-attendance campaign. As we mentioned when McGinn's ad ran, it's always a little odd when candidates take credit for measures that voters passed. The ad stars El Centro de la Raza director Estela Ortega (but identifies her by name only, so if you're unfamiliar with her association with El Centro, you probably won't identify her as the prominent civil rights leader she is) and includes just one quick (and silent) shot of McGinn, working with his daughter on her homework. 

In my opinion, the best ad so far—is Harrell's, which starts with a direct attack on McGinn as a mayor who has "failed and fractured" the city, continues by ID'ing Harrell as a Garfield valedictorian who went on to lead the Huskies to victory at the Rose Bowl, ticks off some accomplishments (including labor suits he won as an attorney and his work to achieve "equity for women" as a council member.

It ends with a sunny shot of Harrell addressing the camera from what looks like Seward Park, saying, "It's time to have a mayor as innovative, collaborative, and compassionate as the people of Seattle. I will be that mayor." It isn't mean, but it is direct—and more informative than the other, single-issue ads we've seen so far.

A long-shot candidate, real-estate broker Charlie Staadecker, released a video of his own this week—a Youtube-only ad parodying those ubiquitous Dos Equis commercials (Staadecker's version casts him as "the most qualified candidate in the race.")

Grading (on a curve) the ads so far: Harrell A, McGinn B, Murray C.


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